Dying in a college math class? You need a better textbook.

So at this point, anyone that reads this blog knows I’m taking computer science classes at a local university. One of my ongoing beefs with * science majors is the (IMO) ridiculous amount of math classes that everyone has to take. In the case of computer science, I swear there are more math classes than there are actual computer/programming classes. It’s nuts.

Last summer I stumbled my way through a pre-calculus class (yeah, I didn’t need to go far with math when I got my BFA) and managed to get an A. I didn’t get an A because the professor was awesome (she was cool but I had a hard time learning from her), nor did I get an A because of the textbook. In fact, I got an A in spite of the textbook–what a utter and complete piece of kunk–and in spite of difficulties learning from my professor. My A was punk through and through. Buck the system, and all that.

I could wax philosophic about college math departments, but I’ll save my conspiracy theories for private conversations. Suffice it to say I think they do not all have your best interests in mind when they (a) choose their textbooks, (b) hire their professors, and (c) teach you math.

In my case, a double-whammy of difficult teacher + horrific textbook drove me to Kahn Academy and other free resources on the Internet. That worked for me, but I still wish my pre-calc class required less hunting. I wish I had a resource right here in my basement office that I could pull off a shelf and read instead of my assigned math textbook.

Turns out I could have done that all along. Oh, the things you don’t think about when stressing over functions.

I checked out other colleges near me and found one textbook that got consistently good reviews from students. It’s called College Algebra and Trigonometry through Modeling and Visualization (2nd Edition) by Gary Rockswold. It’s at least two editions behind the most recent edition, but the beauty of math is that it doesn’t change. The pre-calc you’re learning now is the same pre-calc that existed before Isaac Newton defined calculus. On top of that, when a textbook edition is two or more editions old, it’s dirt cheap. This book was about $150 new, but I got it through abebooks.com for $1.50. Note the decimal position. With expediting shipping, I paid $7. I win.

Long story longer: if your college math textbook sucks, get a better one. It’s cheap and you’ll do better in math in spite of your college’s efforts to knock you down. Bastards.

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The Affordable Care Act. Yeah, that.

Okay, I’m going to get political here for a minute. Don’t want to read it? Don’t worry, just skip it.

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Bluetooth, FreeBSD 9.1, MacBook

In another post, I described how I got FreeBSD 9.1 running on my EOL’d 1st generation MacBook. It was quite a mouthful so I decided to put bluetooth setup instructions in their own post.

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Posted in freebsd, hardware, macbook | 1 Comment

FreeBSD 9.1 by itself on a 1st gen MacBook

Apple thinks this laptop is obsolete. I think Apple gave up on it too soon.

If you’re like me and you felt “stuck” with an orphaned 1st generation MacBook, it’s time to get unstuck. If you can give up on the idea of running a solid installation of Mac OS (Snow Leopard is as new as it gets, and at 32 bits, it’s losing applications by the hour), a bright and only slightly labor-intensive future awaits with freely available flavors of *NIX.

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Posted in freebsd, hardware, macbook | 2 Comments

Note to self: getting going with Amazon S3 on Mac OS

Like many posts on this blog, this one is meant more to help me remember than anything else. If others benefit, huzzah.

I’m in the process of dropping Dropbox. Amazon S3 is a fraction of the cost and is less limited. It’s cryptic as hell, though, so I anticipate a lot of hair-tearing while I figure it out.

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Back to Vim…with NERDTree? Nope, netrw.

It happens every few years: I get tired of Vim, I try another editor, I get proficient in said editor, then for no reason at all I go back to Vim. Familiarity? Comfort? Masochistic? Don’t know. But like a dog returns to its vomit, I return to Vim. And I love it all over again.

This round with Vim has been accompanied by lots of customization. Things like a custom status bar that changes colors depending on whether I’m in insert or command mode and an emacs-like “scratch” buffer that I can call up whenever I want with a few keys. Lame-o, I know, but I felt like each was quite an accomplishment. I haven’t customized Vim like this ever in the 17 years I’ve been using it so pfffthththtthh.

My latest effort, again for no particular reason other than “why not”: ditch NERDTree, the file explorer plugin favored by recent Vim converts, and use the built-in netrw functionality instead.

I never thought it could be possible to do this, but hey, turns out it works.

Tonight, I stumbled upon a StackOverflow webpage that details how to mimic a lot of NERDTree’s functionality (at least the stuff I used in NERDTree) using netrw. It mostly boils down to including the following code in your ~/.vimrc file:

" Toggle Vexplore with Ctrl-E
function! ToggleVExplorer()
  if exists("t:expl_buf_num")
      let expl_win_num = bufwinnr(t:expl_buf_num)
      if expl_win_num != -1
          let cur_win_nr = winnr()
          exec expl_win_num . 'wincmd w'
          exec cur_win_nr . 'wincmd w'
          unlet t:expl_buf_num
          unlet t:expl_buf_num
      exec '1wincmd w'
      let t:expl_buf_num = bufnr("%")
map <silent> <C-E> :call ToggleVExplorer()<CR>

" Hit enter in the file browser to open the selected
" file with :vsplit to the right of the browser.
let g:netrw_browse_split = 4
let g:netrw_altv = 1

" Default to tree mode
let g:netrw_liststyle=3

" Change directory to the current buffer when opening files.
set autochdir

The “Default to tree mode” bit near the bottom was added by Yours Truly. It’s important to me for no reason other than I like collapsible trees better than netrw’s default mode.

As the code above says, hitting CTRL-E opens/closes the netrw tree. Highlight a file and hit ENTER and the file will be loaded in a window to the right of the netrw window. Hit CTRL-E again and netrw goes away. Lather, rinse, repeat.

So, so cool. I love ditching plugins, and NERDTree was always a bit of a pain in the ass. It never installed cleanly, it doesn’t work at all with Pathogen (a Vim plugin manager) in spite of claims to the contrary…goodbye. I’m a happy hippo again.

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When a client requests an “HTML5 website”

I may ruffle a few feathers with this one.

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Why I un-followed you on Twitter

I used to love Twitter. Now I kind of hate it.

A few Fridays ago I decided we did not need each other anymore and quit using it. I figured that was that, but in my time away I gave this hate thing a bit of thought and came to the following conclusion: Twitter in general is probably fine and I should start using it again, but my usage needs to be adjusted or I’ll be back at square one.

So here we are about two weeks later, and I’m back on Twitter. All is not rosy but there is hope for a better experience, starting with some major changes to my feed.

I can’t control what other people do with Twitter, but I sure as hell can control what parts I see.

This means it’s time to revamp the follow list. Again.

Unfortunately, this also means some of you have to go.

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Regarding independence from web behemoths

Today, this website imploded. It didn’t kind of implode, it IMPLODED. Somehow the database went all screwy and content either disappeared from the site or was added to the site, depending on which page you were viewing.

It all started when I wanted to add an image to a blog post. Seemingly easy to do, in practice not so easy, at least on WordPress 3.5.1.

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Edit posts and upload files in CodeIgniter sites

I’ve been having an absolutely SPLENDID time playing with Rails, but after a while away from PHP the urge to “go home” overwhelms. I guess it’s hard to warm up to web frameworks that are so…so…alien. Rails is great, but holy shiz, it’s…Rails.

I have more history with CodeIgniter. I like it, and I suspect if you’re reading this you either like it too or you’re stuck building a site with it. Either way, hi.

So, yeah. Editing and uploading. I’m going to assume your editing and uploading will be for posts (news, blog posts, etc.) and the files will be images for the posts. The ol’ 80/20 rule, right? I think I’m safe with this assumption.

Still with me? Read on.

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Posted in webdev | 3 Comments